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WL Ross gets Burlington

What was once the largest American textile company is slated to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Nov. 10 under the aegis of WL Ross & Co. LLC, which was approved by creditors last week to purchase Burlington Industries.

The purchase, subject to bankruptcy court approval, will place financier Wilbur Ross as chairman and Joseph Gorga as president and ceo.

At the same time, Ross moved another step forward in his quest to purchase Cone Mills with a bid in excess of $90 million for substantially all of that company's assets, the assumption of its outstanding debtor in possession loans and selected other liabilities, according to Cone.

The Ross bid for Cone sets a floor for other bids for the company, which is operating under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code and is subject to higher or better bids, Cone said.

Ross also noted that Burlington will move from its marquee in Greensboro, NC, a 400,000-square-foot glass and steel building. "We don't need it. They haven't been filling it for years. And we when sell Lees to Mohawk, we certainly won't need it."

The two companies offer synergies in the home arena, Ross said. Burlington with its contract fabrics division and Cone with its Cone Jacquards and Carlisle Finishing "both have jacquard weaving capacity," Ross said. With Carlisle's decorative fabric business and Burlington's furniture cover business in contract "it's an interesting combination."

Burlington, which filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2001, sold its ready-made home textiles business to Springs Inds., its residential upholstery fabrics business to Tietex Intl., and will sell its Lees Carpet business to Mohawk Inds. after its emerges from bankruptcy. It retains its contract fabric business and its mattress ticking business.

Naming Gorga to the ceo slot at Burlington, Ross retained only one member of the Burlington hierarchy. Gorga joined the company last year as executive vp, North American operations. Earlier he was with Milliken and CMI Industries.

Leaving Burlington are George Henderson, chairman and ceo, John Engler, senior vp, corporate development and law, Charles Peters, Jr., senior vp and cfo, Judith Altman, senior vp, global support operations and cio, Robert Wicker, vp and general counsel, and James Guin, vp, human resources and corporate communications.

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